All of your favorites, in one place.
Brethren Of The Free Spirit combines the considerable 12-string guitar talents of James Blackshaw with the lute skills of Dutch instrumentalist Josef Van Wissem. Those of you who picked up the excellent Blackshaw-curated Garden Of Forking Paths compilation on Important a couple of weeks back will already be familiar with Van Wissem's abilities, dexterously coaxing his baroque instrument into the modern age. The two musicians compliment each other beautifully - there's no treading on toes here, but neither do the two performers hold back excessively. Instead, they're smart enough to know how to fit around one another, avoiding excessive clutter but not compromising on the kind of elaborate, intricate musicianship we've come to demand from a Blackshaw-related release. While the first two pieces are fairly extensive jaunts, the album as a whole fits neatly into a slightly sub-thirty-minute duration, meaning that there's really no room for excessive noodling or repetition. In recent years Blackshaw's playing, while remaining impressively florid, has become more and more about playing within the context of a song format. Van Wissem fits in with that profile too, carving out tuneful ragas on 'In Him is no sin', only for Blackshaw to respond with chiming counter melodies. It's not all about deftly fingerpicked passages however, and on 'How the Unencumbered Soul advises that One not refuse the Calls of a Good Spirit' the duo venture into a droning, electrified soundscape populated by screeching cat voices and guitar tones mirroring their cries, while Blackshaw makes like Derek Bailey and disjointedly plots an unruly harmonic path across the span of the piece. A predictably brilliant set of performances all round - and a massive recommendation.